“They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’ “Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.” – Revelation 18:14-20
Well the challenging water continues today as those with empty souls look on as the fruit of investing in the world’s wealth is harvested through the torment of this woman in the wilderness and the “great city”. All the chasing after the treasures of this world, “The fruit you longed for” have come to nothing in the end. These soul-sick onlookers are amazed that all the worldly things they have valued, and invested their lives chasing after, has “been brought to ruin!”, and in one hour it seems.
The speed with which this “great city” is brought to ruin is certainly consistent with the impact of a very large earthquake as alluded to earlier in revelation. This passage also makes it sound like wherever this “great city” is it is within sight of a sea that is used for shipping and commerce. The most logical body of water would be the Mediterranean, which would make the location of the “great city” somewhere along its shores. Perhaps in the strip of land occupied by Israel and other middle eastern countries.
The captains are standing off at sea observing the destruction of this great city that was apparently a place of commerce and trade for them to accumulate great worldly wealth. These sea captains are also amazed this great city has been laid low on only one hour. If this is in fact describing an earthquake the “smoke rising” is probably a combination of dust and smoke from the widespread destruction. The heavens, on the other hand, are rejoicing that God’s judgement has been imposed on this city.
Presumably “the heavens”, described here as the apostles and prophets, is referring all those who follow the Lamb and have been willing to sacrifice earthly existence and treasures for a place in heaven with God. The world has been judging these faithful followers with imprisonment, persecution, and even death. I confess I do not fully understand why this judgement by the ruler of this world was allowed to happen, but the real answer to this question is probably above “my pay grade” as a follower of Christ. Christ felt the sacrifice of His own life was “worth it” so I am willing to follow in sacrificing things I might deem as comforts in this world.
There seems to be a recurring theme as I make my way through these rapids that we know as the book of revelation. The emerging theme is that judgement to the world will come at some point in “the future” as we measure time. Our job here on earth is to allow God to prepare our souls for this time. Of course once our souls are outside of the temporal tethers imposed by our physical existence the meaning of “the future” is less clear. It could be that once we leave this world “the future” and the “the present” will be one and the same and we will find ourselves experiencing the events described here in revelation. I do not know.
Regardless of the confusing eschatological eddies of meaning here in revelations the take home message for me seems pretty clear. Attend to the care and feeding of our souls at least as diligently, or probably more diligently, than we care for our bodies. Soul size matters, and if we find ourselves with poorly cared for souls we may be looking on with weeping and mourning rather than rejoicing.
Prayer: God remind of the importance of caring for our souls as diligently as we care for your earthly bodies.